When the subject of superheroes with great rogues galleries comes up among more casual fans of superheroes, there are usually two or three names that come up: Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men. Some of that has to do with popularity, but there is also some truth to the fact that iconic heroes like Iron Man and Green Arrow don’t have a great list of memorable, interesting villains. Even Superman and Thor only have about half dozen baddies that can be considered “really good”. My hope is that now, with the success of the TV series, “The Flash” will be one of those names that everyone brings up when talking about a hero with an awesome collection of villains. Today I’m going to be talking about my favorite Flash villain, and one of my favorite bad guys in any comic series.
Leonard Snart was little more than a common criminal before reading an article that theorized a cyclotron could possibly slow down The Flash, the supehero defender of Leonard’s hometown of Central City. Knowing that his chosen career path is going to put him at odds with the Scarlet Speedster, he creates a “cold gun” using the cyclotron, dons a blue parka and begins his career as Captain Cold. He becomes the most persistent adversary of The Flash, although the rivalry is not one based in hatred. Snart is not an insane killer; he’s a thief who wants to live life comfortably. He believes the world owes him a good living and if his skills make him a top notch thief, then he’s only doing his job. Cold doesn’t believe in killing civilians or police officers, and really wouldn’t even kill Flash. All he cares about is “The Score”.
Well, The Score and his teammates. Snart is the leader of a group of thieves who call themselves “The Rogues”. They don’t consider themselves to be super villains since they have no plans of world domination and aren’t homicidal lunatics. They share Cold’s ideals of stealing money, living comfortably and not hurting anyone unless they absolutely have to. The Rogues also share a common theme of being normal humans with impressive technological weapons: Heatwave’s flamethrowers, Weather Wizard’s wand that controls the weather, Mirror Master’s insane mirror technology. They are friends and co-workers, and in many ways, a family.
Flash’s Perfect Nemesis
Barry Allen was introduced to the world in DC’s Showcase #4 and Leonard Snart debuted eight months and four issues later in Showcase #8 (June 1957). Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, Cold was really the perfect enemy for the Flash. Barry Allen was about speed and kinetic movement; ice is slow and generally immovable. Barry had the bright red and yellow costume, so Cold had the softer white and blue costume; they just look good fighting each other. But while Captain Cold was in many ways the polar opposite of Flash (sorry, I couldn’t resist), they share something important in common; they are softer, more kid friendly characters with a code of ethics. And that isn’t a bad thing; if anything, it helps gives Flash comics a unique identity in the comic book world.
Barry is one of the nicest superheroes around, as far away from a brooding anti-hero as one could get. Similarly, Snart is really just a regular guy who happens to like stealing stuff. He’s not a psychotic killer like you would read in a Batman comic. He’s not a power-obsessed megalomaniac that you would find in a Superman comic. He’s a street level criminal who doesn’t want to hurt anyone, battling a hero that is essentially a cop with super speed. They are perfectly suited to each other. So it really isn’t surprising that Captain Cold has managed to follow Flash wherever he goes, from the Superfriends cartoon to the 1990’s TV show to the CW’s take on the character.
I haven’t gotten around to watching The Flash yet, though I intend on buying it as soon as it released on Blu-Ray. Luckily, everything I have seen and read about Wentworth Millar’s portrayal of Captain Cold makes me happy. The glasses are there, the parka is there, the cold gun looks awesome, and Millar comes across as very charismatic in the clips I’ve seen. He’s obviously impressed enough people in charge because he’s going to be in Legends of Tomorrow as a reluctant good guy. It seems like the perfect mix of being faithful to the comics while still presenting a believable character that a more casual audience can appreciate.
My real introduction to Captain Cold was unsurprisingly in The New 52 relaunch, where Leonard was re imagined as meta-human. He essentially kept all of personality and backstory, but his cold gun was turned into ice powers that were more powerful than Cold had ever been. It was later revealed to be the result of experimentation that fused the powers of the Rogues’ weapons to their bodies, and I was happy with the change. Mostly because it helped differentiate Cold from Mr. Freeze, the Batman supervillain who also has a cold gun and who Snart often gets mistaken for. But I was also happy when Snart lost his powers and got his gun back; he was one of the main characters in Forever Evil, one of my favorite recent books, and is currently a member of the Justice League, which works better than I could have imagined.
Why Do I Like Captain Cold?
When it comes to villains, my favorites are ones that are either highly entertaining (The Joker, Doctor Doom) or the ones whose motives I can understand and may even be justified (Magneto, Sinestro). Captain Cold qualifies for both of those criteria, but there is also something unique about him that I connect with. He’s honestly just as easy to relate to as The Flash. I don’t relate to psychotic murderers, would-be conquerors, or mindless monsters. But Captain Cold is just a regular guy with some admirable traits and some major flaws. His belief that stealing is just another career option is certainly warped, but aside from that, he’s just a guy that believes in going to work, doing the best he can, and making his way through life without hurting anyone else. That’s not too far from how I live my life.
Snart is proof that you don’t have to be evil to be a villain. And that’s, if you’ll pardon the impression, very, very cool.